REF- Ancestry.com SLAVE NARRATIVES
Works Project Administration. Federal Writers Project.Slave Narratives. [database online] Provo, UT:
Ancestry.com, 2000. Original data from: Works Project Administration. Federal Writers Project. Slave
Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. Washington,
Perhaps no other resource approaches the range of human experience found in Ancestry.com's Slave
Narratives. The collection contains over 20,000 pages of type-scripted interviews with more than 3,500
former slaves, collected over a ten-year period. In 1929, an effort began at Fisk University in Tennessee and
Southern University in Louisiana to document the life stories of these former slaves. Kentucky State College
continued the work in 1934 and from 1936-1939, the Federal Writer's Project (a federal work project that
was a part of The New Deal) launched a coordinated national effort to collect narratives from former slaves.
State: Alabama Interviewee: Jackson, George Washington
(Conecuh County, Alabama, A. D. Dean)
"Uncle Wash, just what do you mean by saying he 'died in the whiskey'"? "Dats jess hit, Miss Ann'Dee. Dat's zackly whut 'twuz. He jess natcherly died in de whiskey. Bless Gawd if he did'n! Now ter begin wid, Miss Ann'Dee, did'n I jess hear you said you cum strait here frum up dere ter de grabe-yeard in de cotton patch?"
"Yes" I said, "and uncle Wash, we've come down here to hear you tell a really true story about some of those folks buried up there." It was late on Sunday afternoon and Uncle Wash, a typical old-timer, sat with Hannah, his 'ole Umman', in front of their rambling farm house, a relic of the past, and neat as a pin. It is surrounded by a low picket fence, with rows of colored bottles of the soda pop variety, bordering the narrow walk which leads from the gate up to the two steps of the low porch. Zinnias, cock's comb and the like, are scattered over the clean swept yard, and a row of blooming geraniums and other plants, in a varied assortment of syrup buckets and other containers, are strung along the bannister rail. It was behind this array of color that Nell and I found the quaint couple sitting in the peaceful quiet of an evening. Old landmarks they are, and Uncle Wash spoke with assurance when he said: "I knows dis hear county frum fust t'last! an I praises Gawd ever day fur it."
"Well then, Uncle Wash," I said, "Maybe you knew my father, Mr. Dick Sampey?"
Uncle Wash took a deep breath and gazed intently into my face, searching for a likeness to something in his past. Without seeming to move an eyelash, he continued to gaze as he said with much emphasis: "Jess lak er book!" As he talked on, he leaned his head to one side and said: "So you is Mister Dick's baby chile! Well, bless Gawd ef you dont look jess lack'm." "An you says dis hear is Mr. Le mar Modrer's chile?" Well fore de Lawd, I done knowed bofe uv yo paws all er my bawn days. Yas-mam! I knowed'm jes lack er book! Now Mr. Lemar, kose he was er yung man, whut cum way atter yo pa, but I knowed'm bofe."
At this point Hannah seemed to sense that Wash was getting ready to unfold, and she seemed to be a little dubious about divulging so much information, but Uncle Wash's gold teeth glistened as he chuckled: "Now hole on ole umman! Jess hole on! Ize gwy tell'm jess how tis an so you set still." Then he looked sort'a' sly: "but dey aint beholdin' ter tell who I is ner whar sum-ever I are, caze I never is went outter my way huntin' no trouble."
Then he began again: "Yawl 'members dat grabe up dere whut says 'John Q. A. Warren, dont-cher? Hits a
settin' rite by de grabe what say 'Henchy Warren'! Dats hit, Well den, Henchy Warren was John Q. A.
Warren's popper, an dere dey sets---side by side.
"Ef I recker-lecks rite, Mr. John Q. A. Warren tuck his name atter dat pres-dunt dey calls Mister John Quinzy Adums. Same's how dey allus name dey chillun lack de prez-dunts beez named. Fer-ninstunts, dere's my name. Hit's George Washington Jackson: co'se dey calls me Wash fer short. Now hit looks like everwhar you turns in de New Nine-ted States, you finds'm er flockin ter name dey chillun atter Mister Roozey-felt. When dey gits twinzes, en lack ter dat, dey jess halfs an quarters de name an gives ever chile a piece uv de name. You see lack one beez Franklun an one Della-No and tother one Roozey-felt. De woods roun hear is plum fuller Roozey-felts an Della-Nos. Ef its a gal baby, dey shorts it an calls her Della, an dey shorts de boy an calls him Frankie, er Roozey er sub'n lack dat, Sum uv dese niggers whut tries ter flower up dey wurds lack usses white folks does, dey says, Rosey-felt. Well, as I was fixin' ter say, dem Warrens wus well ter do an rich bersides. Dey had plenty in dis wurl'! Yes Lawd! Right back up yonder whar you kin see up on dat
kinder hill-lack place right dere is whar de house set. Now, 'bout dat house."
Here Hannah spoke up: "Wash, yo bettah shet yo big mouf!" Evidently he decided to take Hannah's advice for he said: "Well any-how, hit was a gran place. Why I knows hit was, is 'cause Ize done live here ever since Ize been bawn! - an my paw befo' me, he done live here all his natchel bawn life. An dats how cum I knows it jess lack er book!"
Spreading his hand out about four feet from the ground he said: "Mr. John Q. A. Warren was a leetle shawt pusson, jess erbout dis high. He muster weighed nigh on ter 200 pounds er mo'." Wash chuckled a little louder and showed more gold teeth against his shiny black face, topped off with nappy gray hair, while his misty eyes sparkled with the pleasure of living in the past. And so he talked on.
Mr. John Q. A. Warren, now, he's de one whut died in de whiskey, jess lack I tole-yer. Beens he wus so low and so fat an luv his whiskey too, he kep two niggers dat did'n do er Gawd's thing but foller roun' atter him, an him a continuelly go'in all de time. Where-sum-ever Mister John went, dar you'd see dem two niggers, follerin' him er roun'. An' all in Gawd's name dey done was ter put him on his hawse, an take him offen de hawse an set him down on de groun'. He mos'n generul set dar, cawse his laigs was too onsteady ter hole'm up.
"It look lack atter a'while, Mister John Q. jess could'n git satchified no ways in de wurl. He gits so desspit be sent way off down yonder ter Mobile an bought hissef two tree-mend-juss barruls fuller whiskey. De very bess dat was down dere. An bless Gawd if he did'n shuck off his cloze an make dem niggers drap him in one uv dem barruls er licker! Yes Lawd, an ef he did'n make'm po'm slam fuller whiskey whut cum frum outen 'tother barrul. Jess as long as his goozle could run up en down, he kep' on a swoller'n an a swoller'n whilst dem niggers po'd it down'm, 'til bye 'n bye he jess up an lopped over daid! Yes Lawd! He died rite dar in the whiskey.
"Whin I hears bout dese kerrousin licker drinkers gittin' 'soaked' I wonders if dey jess says dat er if dey can git dat much whiskey indurinst dese here probe-itchin times. I bleeves dey is too stingy ter git in it if dey had it."
On and on Uncle Wash lived over again in his past. The sun dropped behind the horizon to make way for night, and as Nell lead the way out through the gate to the car on the other side of the picket fence, we heard Wash mumbling to himself: "My folks! bless Jesus! an I did'n know it!"
And as Hannah stretched her stiff old knees and rose from her chair to to see the car roll off, she was saying: "Great day in de mornin! Dont I know I sees sup'n!"